Dogfennel

Contrary to popular belief, I have not abandoned my blog.  I’ve simply found that more of my time these days is spent reading, writing papers and working on community and personal projects.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have material to blog about, I most certainly do.  For instance, the youngin’ is “individuating”, as my dear friend Cynthia likes to say.  That means my only child has moved out of the house, somewhat prematurely.  Another for instance, the mead has been racked and was a big hit at a couple gatherings.  One more, in my move toward a more abundant life, we now have a papaya, a granny smith, red banana and a fig tree planted in the yard. Albeit, a bit crowded in the space I planted, though they are in and seem happy for the moment.  Well, they aren’t ALL planted but that’s on my list of things to do today.

I still need to follow-up on my house studies.  The beach front home that had it’s porch ripped off during one of the hurricanes has been successfully moved with only a minor snag from DEP.  The cool mid-century modern SIP’s house is up and dried in with some alterations to the exterior and what else?  The permaculture garden I designed for the Seaside Neighborhood School is getting ready to break ground and hopefully in a few months, the video project I’m working on with the TDC will have come to fruition.  That’s just a sampling of the various projects underway.

All that aside, this brings me to the topic of dogfennel, or depending on your perspective, pernicious weeds.  I’m taking an Ecological Economics course which entails looking at our natural resources and their value.  I also have a rather unruly yard (by my neighbors standards) that I have been ever so carefully hand sculpting.  Really, it’s hand sculpted or plain wild, which ever your perspective.  Nothing gets ripped out unless I know what it is and if there is a higher use determined for that space.  Tying all this together, as I was making room for the fruit trees, I was determined to figure out the purpose of the dogfennel that had cropped up thereabouts.  The other plants were easy enough, gallberry-birds love the berries and bees love the flowers, goldenrod-beautiful showy flowers and can be made into a tea for seasonal allergy, sinus and colds, passion flower-edible leaves and fruits, even the devil’s vine can be eaten like asparagus when it is young.  The dogfennel was alluding me, in fact, I couldn’t even figure out what it was until the fellow that delivered our trees told us it was dogfennel and we should eradicate it immediately.  He also pointed out a volunteer baby sand myrtle that will be a nice specimen.  Who knew?

To be certain, the dogfennel is perfectly appropriate for the scale of a roadside, but entirely too large and somewhat invasive for a small yard.  I seem to have more than my fair share of it.  Doing some research on the Internet, I found out that it has a “noxious smell”, which I found amusing because I kind of like it – it smells like fennel.  I found all sorts of ways to quickly eliminate it from my garden and finally, I found what I was looking for, medicinal uses.  It’s not mentioned in Medicinal Plants of the Southern Appalachians, though one website claims it has been used for “reptile and insect bites”.  What I found beyond that was even more interesting.  It’s scientific name is Eupatorium capillifolium and it’s a member of the Aster family.  The oil from the leaves are antifungal and research is being done to understand its antimycotic properties.  Here’s what I found from one site:

New spectrum of opportunistic human mycotic infection are increasing day-to-day due to increase in number of AIDS and cancer patients. Such fungal pathogens form new combination with immunocompromised or immunosuppressed hosts…

E. cappilifolium

The leaves yielded 1 per cent oil which was fungistatic to various fungi at 1000 ppm (1.0 x 103 µl/ l) doze (Chandra et al., 1982b). They further reported that the fungitoxicity of the oil was enhanced at pH 7 and pH 9. Rao et al. (1992) observed antifungal activity in the leaf oil against Colletotrichum falcatum, Curvularia pallescens, and Periconia atro-purpurea.

One can get lost in the Internet for sure, you see where i’m going here… This is from another site about Curvularia pallescens:

Curvularia spp. are among the causative agents of phaeohyphomycosis. Wound infections, mycetoma, onychomycosis, keratitis, allergic sinusitis, cerebral abscess, cerebritis, pneumonia, allergic bronchopulmonary disease, endocarditis, dialysis-associated peritonitis, and disseminated infections may develop due to Curvularia spp. Curvularia lunata is the most commonly encountered species. Importantly, the infections may develop in patients with intact immune system. However, similar to several other fungal genera, Curvularia has recently emerged also as an opportunistic pathogen that infects immunocompromised hosts…

Now, I make no claims to be versed in biology or medicine, the point of all this is that, I believe the planet is trying to tell us something and/or heal itself and therefore us.  If we would only pay attention.  In Ecology, we know that trees like oaks and pines seem to have devised ways to ensure their survival, like masting or producing a super abundance of nuts or seeds in response to resources and nut predators.  We also know that plants like dogfennel, goldenrod, poison ivy and passion flower thrive in disturbed areas.  They are opportunists living on the edge and we are constantly trying to eradicate them.  If we look at a plant like poison ivy, often it’s anecdote, jewel weed is growing near by.  It’s all instinctual on my part, but it would be interesting to see more scientific research indicating these perceived useless plants to be exactly what we need as a species to survive.  All I know for certain is that the tree guy sells small buckets of goldenrod for $5 a piece and with all the goldenrod I relocated, I figure I saved myself several hundred dollars…and my neighbors think I’m just growing weeds over here.

I like to pretend that I know what my neighbors think but truthfully, they probably are too busy with their sprayers and lawnmowers to have time to contemplate the state of my hand sculpted yard.

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7 thoughts on “Dogfennel

  1. I’m glad you’re back, I missed your thoughtful blog entries. This one is a great example of what I’ve been missing. I wouldn’t go as far as you, but I have been paying more attention to the weeds on my allotment – looking for uses for them and trying to “read” what they say about the plot. Mainly I’ve been digging them out, it’s true. But some I’ve been harvesting instead and making use of them. And I’ve been using different “digging out” strategies for different weeds, now I can tell the difference between those which can regenerate from scraps of roots and those which can’t, those which have long taproots and those which have shallow networks of roots, those which spread by runners, those which can be composted and those which can’t etc. It’s definitely worthwhile to pay attention to weeds, and know something about them.

  2. Mel~
    Thanks for the kind words. I’ve missed posting AND keeping up with my blog reading. I really enjoy your entries too (mutual admiration :)) It’s amazing what we can learn from the land if we just listen and watch. I need to get back over to your site to check out the wine and ginger beer. You know I’m all about that these days. Thanks again…

  3. Thanks for the info on dogfennel. I have a ton of it on my site (~3 acres) and am not sure what to do. I noticed it does attract a lot of pollinators when it blooms, and also found research that indicates it inhibits cancer cell growth:

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/d3q2p3l03662r515/

    Apparently it is characteristic of a mid-seral (changing) ecosystem (still trying to figure out what that means for my site):

    http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/forb/eupcap/all.html

    I probably will try to thin a lot of it out, since it is so prolific and easily spreads. It is shading out a lot of other plants (I think it’s killing some young bald cypress) and is due to set seed very soon.

  4. I also have been searching for further information on dogfennel. I also like its smell and I observed its similarity in appearance to European fennel. It has a not unpleasant, (to me) herbal flavor. Being cautious I did not swallow. I have wondered about its possible medicinal uses as compared to European fennel, but there seems to be little information available. I’ve found no mention of whether or not it is poisonous. Goats seem to like it.

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